Nigerian Unionists Detained

29th July, 2004


The State Security Services (SSS) today arrested two officials of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) inside the premises of the National Assembly in Abuja. They were arrested for distributing copies of the NLC’s response to the bill to the National Legislators.

The Congress officials, Mr Benson Upah, NLC Parliamentary Liaison Officer and Mr Moses Umaru of the Adminstration Department were arrested at about 1.30 p.m. and detained on the ground floor of the National Assembly before being taken to the SSS Headquarters in Abuja. The team that detained the NLC officials was led by the SSS officer-in-charge of the National Assembly.

An attempt to also arrest two other NLC officials Mr Innocent Ogwuche and Miss Jane Alabi also on the National Assembly premises failed as they escaped from the hands of their would-be captors.

The arrest of the NLC officials is a deliberate attempt by the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration to intimidate the National Assembly, the NLC and Nigerians in general over his ill-conceived and anti-people bill.

President Obasanjo cannot on one hand try to ban the NLC, and the other seek to stop the NLC from carrying her case to the National Assembly.

The NLC cannot and will not be intimidated by such repressive tactics. The President and his administration must know that once they present a bill to the National Assembly, it becomes a public issue and that they cannot stop Nigerians from engaging the National Assembly on such a bill. No earthly power can stop the NLC and workers from presenting our case on the bill before the National Assembly.

The NLC demands the immediate and unconditional release of her detained officials and a public apology from President Obasanjo’s administration.

Owei Lakemfa,
Acting General Secretary

We're So Happy that It Wasn't an Oil War After All

“Loaded the first cargo of crude oil from the Karachaganak Field in Kazakhstan at Russia’s Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. This represented the first shipment of Karachaganak production through the Caspian Pipeline Consortium export pipeline that provides access to world markets.” (press release pdf p. 2).

ChevronTexaco Reports Record Quarterly Net Income of $4.1 Billion

Production down four percent, but price up 35 percent: “Internationally, the average liquids price was up 35 percent to $32.48 per barrel….Worldwide oil-equivalent production, including volumes produced from oil sands and production under an operating service agreement, declined about 4 percent from the 2003 second quarter.” (p. 3).

See Also:

Resolves to intensify fight against Imperialist Onslaught
By Swadesh Dev Roye
Coalition of Indian Trade Unions

Delegation Tours Colombia, Hosted by Oil Workers Union
By Tom Burke
Fight Back News (Minneapolis, MN)

USO Colombia

Portside Readers Respond

Readers’ Responses and Reactions — July 29, 2004

[The following readers respond to the Peacefile article below:
“From No to Yes on Kerry: Andy Stern Points to Health Care.”
The article and the responses were circulated via the Portside
email list on July 29, 2004.]

Re: Andy Stern Points to Health Care

Good points made, but I would also add, in Kerry’s first hundred days, he should first implement true labor organizing rights that include a card check process for union elections. We in the labor movement could then go about the task of organizing the unorganized without employer interference. That simple act would dramatically change this country. With a dramatic increase in the numbers of union membership, we could gain a single payer health plan, take out our medical benefits from the economic workplace, and organize the south. This simple act would dramatically change the political landscape in this country.

Edwin Herzog SEIU 250


Re: Andy Stern Points to Health Care

Andy Stern’s proposal that progressives work for Kerry “in exchange’ for a prospect of his (Kerry’s) fixing of the health care system within the first 100 days of his administration (if not, the “gloves come off”–i.e., progressives can organize themselves as a separate pressure group, delinking their hopes and visions from Kerry) seems rather tame and likely to reiterate the predicament of progressives: supporting centrist democrats only to be disappointed–over, and over, and over, and over again. (By the way, it is the election of people who are unwilling to or afraid of articulating for the American public a progressive agenda, and of standing boldly for it, except at certain moments of convenience, that reproduces the type of electorate that makes possible the increasing rightward tilt of American politics).

I believe progressives can and should follow a different track: while expressing their willingness and desire to support Kerry, they should make that support contingent not on a prospect that Kerry will fix the health care situation but on a hard promise/commitment (with teeth, negotiated by those in a position to do so) that he will do so. The idea that progressives can bargain with centrists is not in itself wrong. it is even necessary, and good. But if bargaining there must be, as there must, let it, then, indeed be real bargaining, not an unfounded hope that the Democratic Party will, this time, deliver out of its own bowls. it will not.

Progressives indeed need Kerry to win. But Kerry also needs progressives to win. If there is to be bargaining, let it be real bargaining.

Antonio Callari


Re: Andy Stern Points to Health Care

Greg Moses gave us a good analysis of the Left predicament vis-à-vis Iraq and health care. Andy Stern’s proposals on this issue are intriguing, but fraught with the dangers Moses brings up. I don’t think most Left activists “answer with a resounding no” to the question whether supporting Kerry will be worth it. I know lots of folks who subscribe to ABB (“Anybody But Bush”) and thus reluctantly support Kerry. His Iraq and related Defense budget proposals are worse than Bush’s, but holding his feet to the fire on health care will at least reinforce cynicism on the part of the US electorate, when he almost inevitably doesn’t deliver.

I don’t think the Left has the numbers or influence to make a difference, but we can at least try to keep the health care issue on screen. People are going to be upset when health care reform is not delivered and we sink deeper into our self-engendered Iraq quagmire. It’s not at all likely that a Kerry administration, when faced with the choice between the Iraq war and health care, will choose the latter. Their corporate sponsors would not approve. Then again, should the Iraq war continue to prove quite costly in terms of lost lives and public support, maybe the ruling class will turn against it. And maybe they’ll decide it’s time, finally, to do something about health care. It’s hardly likely to be universal health in a Canadian or a British or a Japanese sense, however. They’ll find some way to protect the profits of the insurance and drug companies. But Stern and Moses are right. They may decide Iraq is too costly and so is our present health care setup. And maybe that does mean we need to elect Kerry rather than Bush, the more reasonable instead of the recalcitrant.

But either way, we on the Left are not going to have much to do with the electoral outcome or its aftermath unless and until we rebuild our base. That means concentrating on organizing in our workplaces and our communities, while of course also lending a hand to slightly more rational candidates, on local and state, as well as national, levels. I intend to vote for Kerry and maybe help his campaign microscopically, not because of any illusions on Iraq or health care, but because a Kerry administration MAY attack the poor and civil liberties a little less enthusiastically than another Bush one.

Greg King

SEIU, Local 888

From No to Yes on Kerry:

Andy Stern Points to Health Care

By Greg Moses

Like environmentalists looking back on James Watt, or peace activists looking back on the draft, lefty organizers realize they will lose something if they lose Bush in November. Question is: will electing Kerry be worth the cost? While many leftists answer with a resounding no, Andy Stern this week, in a pair of reports clipped and distributed by the Portside list, answers no, and yes.

On the no side, Stern tells David Broder that a Bush defeat will leave labor feeling less threatened, in less of a fighting mood, and less conflicted among its membership. Bad signs for movement history. In effect, Stern tells Broder that he agrees with critics who allege that the left will be deflated by a Kerry win.

On the yes side, however, Stern replies in a statement at the website of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), that he is backing a $65 million campaign to elect Kerry. Why? Because Kerry has been a better friend to labor over the years and because labor does, in fact, expect better things from a Kerry administration.

Stern’s journey from no to yes is interesting to consider as an internet play made during a widely touted internet convention, where bloggers have made their official debut. With the help of the internet, Stern can spin one way in the morning, another in the afternoon, offering on one hand important concessions to leftist critics while presenting on the other hand a clear determination to get Kerry elected.

Between yes and no, Stern also offers an intriguing strategic proposal that sets out for leftists and labor activists an agenda that might help to reclaim long-lost liberal momentum in American politics. If labor is going to stand loyal with Kerry, says Stern, they expect that Kerry will stand loyal with them by fixing health care in the first hundred days of his administration.

At first glance, the Stern proposal looks neat, unwinnable, and an evasion of Iraq. But it may also deserve further consideration. The neatness of the Stern deal gives left organizers a clear deadline for their honeymoon with Kerry. If Kerry doesn’t move on health care, if Kerry doesn’t deliver a fixed health care system very early, then the gloves come back off. If Kerry does deliver health care, then left organizers can chalk up an achievement worth their while.

But fixing health care in 100 days? Haven’t we seen something like this before? Is this plan to be counted as anything more than Hilary’s revenge? Doesn’t it seem incredible to think that the empire beast of the USA government, which just roared through Iraq, is going to change its spots by Spring Break 2005, and suddenly lie down with the lambs of universal health care?

And on the question of Iraq, how can Kerry’s campaign promises on that front be nailed to the same platform as universal health care? So far, he is promising more money for the Iraq war, not less. Is the health care issue supposed to make us forget all about Iraq?

On second thought, however, there is a chance that Stern’s proposal for a health care agenda might keep the left moving toward peace under a Kerry administration. If pressures for health care can be assembled and funded, then budgets will have to shift. It will be impossible to reconcile the books of health care with the books of war. If Iraq is an empire’s elective war that can be abandoned, then Stern’s plan offers to Kerry’s activist base a way to mobilize a peace presidency as soon as the oath of office is taken.

If this strategy works, then the left can begin winning sooner than we think. Indeed, if it possible for the left to do something coherent in the coming year, Stern’s plan beats any other that I’ve heard.

But there are a lot of “ifs” here. For instance, can this empire walk away from the Iraq war? Is Kerry’s left base capable of shaking up American politics to the point where universal health care becomes a political mandate? To answer these questions would require from left and labor activists a sober inventory of what they are able to bring to the struggle at hand.

Labor Day would mark an auspicious time to launch the strategy that Stern has in mind. As he says, “Fixing the health care system in America is going to take the blood, sweat, and tears of all of us and we’ll need the energy and unity we have now to do it.” Question is: are activists willing to risk it?